Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Weekend Several: The Delaney Brothers

Unnamed Sketch by Joseph Delaney
(Image from The Art of Joseph Delaney at
the University of Tennessee - Knoxville)
My current "calm down the brain so I can actually sleep" read is an essay collection by my favorite Knoxville writer, the Soul of the Orange City, the Voice of the Rome of Appalachia, the Jack Neely. The collection, entitled From the Shadow Side and Other Stories of Knoxville, Tennessee, is chock full of little masterpieces (as are all of Neely's essay collections, frankly), but one in particular struck me as appropriate for bringing to you, especially given (1) that I'm trying to consciously bring in more art and artists here and (2) it is February, and February is Black History Month.

The essay is entitled "A Tale of Two Brothers," and it details the lives of two Knoxville natives, brothers Beauford and Joseph Delaney. Both were lesser-known painters of the 20th Century who, as fate would have it, are starting to gather a following in the quiet after their passing. While they probably would have denied it, the work of both artists echoes many of the same themes and trends - both, for instance, are obviously the intellectual heirs of the expressionist movement, and while Joseph's work remained largely figure-oriented and Beauford's largely leaned to the abstract side of expressionism, both dabbled in each other's compositional pond, and the work of both share key traits (I'm thinking their powerful use of linear composition, for instance). My recommendation? Read the essay first, then shoot south to the links, and peruse some other commentaries and, most importantly, some collections. Huzzah!

"Distant Horizons" by Beauford Delaney
(Image from the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts
exhibition Beauford Delaney from New York to Paris)
1. The Art of Joseph Delaney: This site, hosted by the University of Tennessee - Knoxville, is tremendous - simultaneously a collection (of paintings and sketches) and a whole series of commentaries. A great example of how a simple site can yield tremendous benefits.

2. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts: Beauford Delaney, From New York to Paris: To quote the webmasters:

Discover the fascinating career of Beauford Delaney (1901-79). An American modernist painter, Delaney produced engaging portraits, landscapes, and abstractions celebrated for their brilliance and technical complexity.

"Beauford Delaney: From New York to Paris" explores Delaney’s dramatic stylistic shift from figurative compositions of New York life to abstract expressionist studies of color and light following his move to Paris in 1953. Approximately fifty paintings, including several never before exhibited, illuminate some of Delaney's most innovative years and firmly place his work among the dominant art movements of the day.

3. Beauford Delaney on Artnet: Nine works on display and on the market.

4. Museum of the City of New York: Painting the Town: A brief biography of Joseph Delaney and commentary on one of his works in the catalogue of the MCNY.

5. Amazing Grace: The Life of Beauford Delaney: This link is to the first chapter of the best known biography of Beauford Delaney - if you want to purchase the full text, you might want to check here.

6. Aaron Galleries, Joseph Delaney: A short collection of high-quality reproductions of Delaney's work - I particularly like "Gracious Lord Hold My Hand."

7. Knoxville Museum of Art, Beauford Delaney: From New York to Paris: Outline of a recent show at our own KMA.

8. The Samek Art Gallery at Bucknell, University: Life in the City: The Art of Joseph Delaney: Another exhibition site with some high-quality reproductions.

Remember, definitely read the Neely essay - it will set the tone for you to understand the transformation of the brothers work over time, including their diverging tone and methods of their work.

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